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Farm Safety is Paramount This Spring

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Follow Safety Protocols When Filling Silos and Bunkers This Summer

Over the next several months, farmers will be harvesting forages and putting high-powered equipment to work. While that equipment poses its own safety risks, the upright silos and bunkers that store the forage offer another set of safety challenges.
“Silage harvest seasons vary geographically across the country, but there has never been a better time for safety than now,” says Juan Gonzalez, Loss Control Consultant with Agri-Services Agency.
Once forage harvest equipment has been serviced and prepared for work, go through safety protocols with your harvest team. The following have been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

For filling bunkers
  • Before filling, inspect the concrete bunker. Repair cracked sidewalls to prevent structural damage and fix cracked concrete or pavement — or rutted approaches to the bunker — to ensure proper traction for packing tractors

For packing tractors
  • Only use tractors with roll-over protection (ROPS) and seat belts
    • Use only low-clearance, wide front-end tractors
    • Consider adding weight to tractor
    • Front-wheel and front-wheel assist tractors can provide extra traction and stability when packing
  • When packing:
    • Use a “progressive wedge” during filling with a 3 to 1 slope to minimize roll-over. This is a rise of 1 foot for every 3 feet of horizontal run
    • Try not to fill the bunker higher than the sides of the retaining wall
    • Know where other workers are located. Keep unauthorized personnel away
  • Using dump trucks:
    • Have good seat and shoulder belts to protect the operator
    • Do not back the dump truck onto the pile
    • As the bed is raised for unloading, keep the load center of gravity between the rails of the truck frame
    • Beware of ruts, low tires, uneven loading or strong wind gusts that can cause instability during unloading
  • Covering the forage:
    • Use fall protection if employees are required to stand and/or work on a sidewall and if the sidewall is several feet above the ground
    • Fall protection standards generally recommend that anytime a worker is on a working surface with an unprotected side or edge which is 4 feet or more above a lower level, they should be protected from falling by the use of guardrails or other fall protection systems
For Upright Silos
  • Inspect the silo to make sure it’s ready for filling.
    • Check the unloader for signs of wear and tear. Replace cables, check bearings, drives and other moving parts
    • Check ladders and cages for proper attachment and condition
    • Make sure doors seal and check concrete frames around doors
  • If you must enter the silo to level it or lower the unloader, beware of silo gases. Run a blower for a minimum of 30 minutes before entering and continue to use it while working in the silo
While it’s important to harvest forages in a timely manner to maintain quality and consistency, safety should be a primary focus. Take time to refresh the harvest team on safety protocols to ensure everyone knows the risks and how to avoid harmful situations.
For more information on farm safety tips and techniques, contact your local Agri-Services Insurance agent at (877) 358-9523 or visit